Patience

15 Feb

Patience. As a writer, it’s one of the most important qualities to have. Why? Publishing is often slow. There are some people who get agents and book deals lightning-fast, but for most, it takes a while. You wait for agents to respond to you when you query, you wait while you’re on submission to publishers, you wait for your editorial letter(s), you wait for your book to finally be released.

Writing often seems like it’s a waiting game.

Beyond all this stuff, though, there’s the most important reason why you need patience: Patience allows you to approach your own writing with diligence. It means that you take your time with revisions and don’t rush into querying. It means that you make your story as clean and perfect as you can before you send it out into the world. And that is absolutely invaluable.

To be clear, I’m not saying that you should write slowly. Writing a novel in ten days is as legitimate as writing a novel in a year. I’m simply saying that you should write (or revise, if you’re a messy drafter) as well as you can. That you should do things properly.

Let me bring you anecdotal evidence of why patience is good, by demonstrating why impatience is bad. When I first began looking into getting an agent (fifteen! Stupid! Disaster! That about sums up the experience), I committed the cardinal sin of querying without having a finished manuscript. Miraculously, my query letter (terrible) garnered a request almost immediately. For a full.

I wrote around 40,000 words in eight days or so (yes, this did nearly kill me), and sent off a crappy first draft version of my manuscript. The agent came back saying that my opening was good, and my concept was good, but the middle was like wading into a bog, my ending weak, and my prose unpolished in several spots.

I’m amazed that I got feedback at all, considering the state of that draft. My impatience had cost me, big time. I re-read the material I’d sent out and was super embarrassed that I’d sent something this terrible out. In fact, I’m kind of embarrassed just writing this – I made a lot of query faux pas, but this was definitely the worst. In case you’re wondering, definitely don’t EVER do something like this.

So how do you remain patient, when writing, or revising, when you really just want to get things moving along? When you want to have written, rather than to write?

I think it’s really quite easy: keep yourself motivated and inspired.

Ways to keep inspired vary between individuals, obviously. Personally, I find that music keeps me inspired. I maintain playlists that grow longer and longer as my novels progress, even though there are usually only one or two songs that I play on repeat when I write.

I also find it really helpful to read work that I find completely blow-my-mind amazing. Doing this makes me thoroughly jealous, because even though the novels, poems or short stories I read are usually nothing like my own (it’s time for me to admit that I will never recreate Pride and Prejudice), it’s just so damn good. And I want my work to be that good. I want it to resonate with readers in the way that my favourite books resonate with me. So I funnel all of that writerly jealousy into patiently and diligently crafting my books.

Others like to draw, search for visual inspiration on sites like tumblr, write with friends to keep motivation levels high,  or write poetry about their characters.

Finding a way to be patient with the process of writing and revising is essential. Because when you’re loving every second – well, almost every second, because there are always going to be ups and downs – that you’re writing, you’ll develop your work properly instead of impatiently rushing to type the words, “THE END”.

What are your methods for remaining patient and motivated?

~~~

Vahini Naidoo is  a YA author and University student from Sydney Australia. Her currently untitled debut novel, en edgy psychological thriller, will be released by Marshall Cavendish in Fall, 2012. She’s represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. You can read more about Vahini on her blog.

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21 Responses to “Patience”

  1. authorguy February 15, 2011 at 7:26 AM #

    I write more stories. Of course, it also helps that I’m fully employed, with kids, and lots of other things to occupy my time. I have a novel coming out in two months and it’s like looking at a train bearing down on me.

    Marc Vun Kannon
    http://authorguy.wordpress.com

    • Vee February 16, 2011 at 2:43 AM #

      I just get more and more frustrated and impatient if I try to write more stories (while one remains incomplete). Keeping busy is a great cure for impatience when you’re on submission, though!

      Good luck with that novel 😀

  2. Andrea February 15, 2011 at 8:02 AM #

    It is hard to be patient, but I keep telling myself to just keep plodding along. What inspires me is to just think about what I really want out of my life, and to take a tiny step towards it each day. Knowing I am learning and improving every time I write something keeps me going.

    • Vee February 16, 2011 at 2:45 AM #

      Andrea, that’s such a wise attitude for you to take! 😀 Writing is definitely about the journey in a lot of ways — and learning and getting better. The process is beautiful, even when it’s painstaking.

  3. Cheyenne February 15, 2011 at 8:12 AM #

    A very encouraging post, especially for someone who – just last night – was told how incredibly impatient she is, about everything in life. I think part of that in my case is related to perfectionism – I feel like I SHOULD be able to do something properly and incredibly well on the first try, without practice or much effort. Stupid!!

    So for someone who struggles so much with patience, it’s difficult to describe how I maintain it (when I do). Sometimes being so determined to do something can be challenging because I want it do be done, RIGHT NOW, but I agree with Andrea. I know this is what I want, and I know I can get there – so I have to tell the perfectionist who wants it all now to take a back seat by thinking about the books that move me, and how if I ever want to move someone else that way, I need to slow it down and make the effort, because those books weren’t written overnight either.

    • Vee February 16, 2011 at 2:48 AM #

      Oh my gosh, I am absolutely the most impatient person ever. And I get so annoyed with myself for not being able to get everything perfectly right the first time, as well. We’re like twins, Cheyenne! 😉

      And that’s a really good tip! Thinking about how long your favourite books were in the making.

  4. Patrick Ross February 15, 2011 at 9:42 AM #

    This has proven to be the hardest thing about pursuing creative writing. I used to work as a daily and wire reporter; deadlines were immediate, and publication satisfaction followed moments later. Everything about my writing now, from the actual writing to the submission and publication schedule, seems an eternity. I’m plowing ahead, however!

    • Vee February 16, 2011 at 2:53 AM #

      Oh, wow, I can definitely imagine that moving from having immediate deadlines to the much slower pace of publishing would be super difficult.

      I’m glad to hear that you’re plowing with it! 😀

  5. Holly February 15, 2011 at 9:45 AM #

    I struggle with impatience. But that impatience also makes me work harder. It gives me the extra kick in the butt to keep revising even if I’m having a bad day. So, I think it can work for or against you. When impatience rears its ugly head about querying, I remind myself that all good things come in time. 🙂 Great post.

    • Vee February 16, 2011 at 2:56 AM #

      Yes, Holly, this is totally true as well! My impatience sometimes gives me a ridiculous drive/work-ethic as well. Thankfully I was smart enough to prevent it from making me do stupid things while querying the second time around (not so much when I was fifteen, lawl) 😀

  6. Caitlin February 15, 2011 at 11:16 AM #

    I love how much you love Pride and Prejudice. 🙂

    School sort of forces me to be patient, to do things when I have chunks of free time. I’d probably query a ton more people if I had more time, but this way I’m doing it slowly, sending a few out at a time, and getting to revise my query as I go. It’s a pretty good method, I think.

    • Vee February 16, 2011 at 3:00 AM #

      Haha, Caitlin, Pride and Prejudice does tend to comesup in ALL of my posts. I do have lots and lots of love for that book xD

      Focusing on school definitely does force you to be patient at times, as well. I always have nearly zero time left to write etc when I have finals, or massive assignments due.

      Querying slowly and revising your query as you go is a really good strategy, too! I tinkered with mine a lot, as well 🙂

  7. zalijun February 15, 2011 at 12:10 PM #

    40,000 words in eight days? Wow. It took me almost three weeks just to finish my story’s outline. Haha~

    I keep patient by seeing my story as a process instead of just thinking that “I. MUST. FINISH. WRITING.” attitude. I give myself generous due dates on when things should get done and always imagine the people I’m writing for whenever I get frustrated. It also helps that I have a close friend who is really eager to read my work when I’m done.

    • Vee February 16, 2011 at 3:04 AM #

      Lawl. I’m not usually that fast, but I do draft pretty fast (and I work ridiculously fast under pressure, haha). I don’t think I’ve ever taken longer than a month on a first draft. Revisions are definitely where I pay my dues — I’ve spent years editing and revising and tinkering with lines on some manuscripts.

      And I’m totally jealous of you! I can’t write outlines to save my life.

      I think viewing writing as a process is really the best way to do it! And giving yourself generous due dates sounds like a great way to keep your process focused.

  8. brandimziegler February 15, 2011 at 3:49 PM #

    Like you, I also read books that I love so they can inspire me to perfect my writing style. I want to blow readers away like other writers do to me. I pray for patience too. Thanks for sharing, Vahini 🙂

    • Vee February 16, 2011 at 3:07 AM #

      Thanks for commenting, Brandi! It’s definitely really helpful, for me anyway, to imagine readers getting blown away by my book like I am by my favourites. Glad to see it works for you, too!

  9. Ashley February 15, 2011 at 4:21 PM #

    Thanks, this was the dose of reality I needed. 🙂

    Now back to writing… 🙂

    • Vee February 16, 2011 at 3:08 AM #

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Ashley! Glad you found the post helpful 😀

      And good luck with whatever you’re writing!

  10. Susan February 16, 2011 at 10:59 AM #

    GREAT POST! This is so important for writers (and pretty much anyone) to realize too.

    Impatience is definitely a killer for me. Plus, I always overestimate my productivity abilities. Like, “Pshaw! Of COURSE I can have a final draft of my NaNo novel my April.”

    Ha. I haven’t even finished draft 1. ::sigh::

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Patience « Let The Words Flow -- Topsy.com - February 15, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sally Jane Clarke, Indie Elf and Jem, Let The Words Flow. Let The Words Flow said: Writers – Stay Patient and Motivated! by @VeeNaidoo: http://t.co/x3qdblT #amwriting #writechat #writing […]

  2. Creativity Tweets of the Week — 02/18/11 « The Artist's Road - February 18, 2011

    […] “Patience,” Vahini Naidoo, Let the Words Flow: I put this directly below Orna’s link on purpose, as it’s a perfect complement. […]

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